17th November 2008

This morning, France's newspapers have banner headlines: Prepare yourself for a week of strikes which will disrupt public services. Where have I heard all this before? It was decades ago when a very different Conservative leader was elected into 10 Downing Street that the same problem reared its ugly head. The UK was then labelled the 'sick man of Europe'.
Now the disease has reached these shores. France is bracing for a week of transport and public sector strikes affecting rail transport, schools and postal services as unions launch a spate of campaigns against the proposed labour reforms of its new President. Hundreds of domestic and international flights were cancelled for a third day on Sunday as Air France pilots pursued a four-day strike, due to end later today. Tomorrow, French train drivers stage the first of two strikes over freight sector reforms and on Thursday, demonstrations by teachers over budget cuts threaten school closures. As though this weren't enough, next Saturday postal workers say they will strike for a day over partial privatisation plans.
Give me a break! When will people ever learn? It's the old political divide all over again. A new leader is elected on a ticket of reform, only to subsequently suffer the consequences by petty, selfish, groups out to maintain their own insular aims at the expense of the whole nation's more global wishes.
All this worries me of course. There's another new leader the other side of the Atlantic. Let's hope, after the honeymoon is over, that he doesn't suffer the same as President Sarkozy (and Margaret Thatcher before him) as his new idealistic policies start to bite.
Until we learn from history, we are set to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

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